Chapter 1: Irritation

Ella sighed as she confronted the press of humanity between her and the kitchen. When she'd agreed to come to this Homecoming party with her friends she'd had no idea how many people were going to be squeezed into one very small student house. Sighing again she began pushing through the crowd between her and more alcohol.

She was right in the thickest part of the crowd when she was shoved from behind as someone much larger then her pushed his way through. Unable to stop herself in time, Ella fell against the guy in front of her, causing him to spill his beer all down the front of his dark blue shirt.

"Oh my god! I am so sorry," Ella apologized profusely as she righted herself before looking up into a set of very black eyes.

The boy in question raised one elegant brow quizzically then smiled down at her, making Ella blush and look away. She had to admit he was quite good-looking. Feeling a tug on her hand she looked down and found the boy towing her gently through the crowd with an ease that startled Ella, who'd been struggling through this selfsame crush no more then a few moments before.

When they finally came to a stop they were standing along the wall of the room that had been cleared out of all furniture except that needed by the DJ. This was the area of the house designated as the dance floor. Again Ella felt the gentle tug on her hand but this time she held back, shaking her head.

"I don't dance," She shouted over the noise that was a combination of loud music, shouted conversations and laughter.

The boy's smile widened and he leaned in to whisper in her ear, deep brown hair falling forward, "You do now."

Startled by the smooth richness of this stranger's voice, Ella didn't realize she'd been towed out onto the dance floor until the boy was behind her and forcing her to gently sway to the music with him.

Flushing hotly, Ella could count on one hand the number of times she'd danced with a guy, she was relieved that he kept his arms and hands around her waist. The last guy she'd danced with had had wandering fingers and the memory was not a pleasant one for either of them Ella was sure. Self-consciously she glanced about the room and was further embarrassed to see several people staring at them. Ella locked her eyes on the ground, unable to take the feeling of those eyes on her.

As the song came to and end, the boy released her and leaned down to whisper one more time in her ear, "Now we're even," before melting into the crowd with ease. Ella couldn't do anything but stand there and stare after him for a long moment before turning abruptly at the sound of her name.

"Ella! Ohmygod! I can't believe it!" Sarah gushed as she grabbed Ella's arm and dragged her to the corner of the room. "I can't believe you just danced with Alex Donovan!"

"Who's Alex Donovan?"

"You don't know who Alex Donovan is? You just danced with him and you don't know who he is?"

Ella blushed. "So who is he?"

Sarah rolled her eyes. "God don't you pay any attention to what goes on around here? Alex is like the most popular guy in the whole school. Everyone knows who he is. Except you apparently. He's also one of the hottest."

Shaking her head, Sarah turned and began walking towards the front hallway when she stopped suddenly and frowned at Ella. "Why is your back all wet? Did someone spill something on you?"

"What?" Ella reached back and touched the back of her shirt which was damp along the top. "That bastard! He did that on purpose! This was a brand new shirt too. Damn him," She cried

"Ella what the hell are you talking about?"

"I accidentally bumped into that Alex guy and made him spill his drink and then he dragged me in here and started dancing with me. Obviously he was doing it just to get my shirt wet too. That's why he said 'Now we're even,'. Gah! And I apologized and everything too. That ass."

"Right," Sarah said stretching the word out for several syllables. "Anyway let's go get more drinks. I'm not nearly as drunk as I should be."

Muttering about people who didn't believe others when they were telling the truth, Ella followed Sarah back into the sea of humanity. Eventually they made it to the relatively clear space in front of the kitchen and got their cups refilled. Deciding against attempting the crowd again, the two joined one of the larger groups that dominated this room.

First one then two hours slipped by and it was then that Sarah began having difficulty walking straight. Laughing, Ella and another of their friends, Jill, got their coats and began leading Sarah out of the house and back to campus. They had just reached the front porch when a voice called out, telling them to wait. The three girls stopped and turned, watching as the dark figure approached them. As he finally came into the light, Ella glared at him while her two friends' eyes widened.

"Ladies, I must beg your pardon. I need to borrow your friend for a moment. I'll do my best to be quick so you don't have to stay out in the cold any longer then you have to." The boy, Alex, said, charm practically oozing from every pore.

Blushing and giggling, Sarah and Jill nodded their agreement, much to Ella's dismay. Again she found herself being towed forward by this irritating man.

"What do you want?" She snapped, hands on hips. "And I hope you know that was a mean, dancing with me just to get my shirt wet."

Alex grinned at her. "Well I thought I'd better introduce myself. I'm Alexander Donovan but please call me Alex. And you got my shirt wet first so we're even."

"I apologized for that."

"Apologies won't dry my shirt."

"You are an insufferable ass, you know that right?"

This made him laugh. "Most people would argue with you. Most people think I'm charming."

"Obviously most people don't get that close to you, Alexander. Now if you'll excuse me, my friends are waiting," Ella told him before turning about and walking away.

"It's Alex," He called after her.

"Whatever Alexander," She shot back.

"Alright you have to tell us what he wanted." Sarah said once they were out of earshot.

"He introduced himself."

"That's it?"

"That's it. Except for him being so obviously full of himself it's sickening."

Sarah rolled her eyes again. "Sure he is. Now let's hurry up. It's fucking freezing out tonight."

Jill laughed. "You're the one who's the slowest, Miss I-can't-walk-without-falling."

"Oh yeah?" Sarah replied and went on to prove that Jill was indeed correct by tripping over the curb and falling backwards onto the grass. Laughing again, Jill and Ella helped her up and continued on their way back to campus.


Glancing up at the stars dusting the clear, dark sky, Ella couldn't help but smile. The weather had warmed back up after their cold weekend for which she was grateful. She hated lugging her coat around from class to class. Hefting her backpack a little higher, Ella began the walk back to her rez.

She had just left the circle of light that surrounded the Fine Arts building when a dark figure separated itself from the larger shadow of the tree it had been resting against. Ella stopped dead in her tracks, heart beginning to beat faster as the figure slowly stalked towards her.

About to turn and run, Ella heard the figure speak. "You know it's dangerous for you to be walking around alone this late at night."

Ella recognized that smooth voice and made a face. "I'm fine. Now go away," she told him before walking away.

"Oh no, you're not getting away that easily," Alex said following her. "And I'm serious. Things can be pretty dangerous after dark. You don't know what could be hiding in the shadows."

"Like an irritating ass," Ella snapped.

Alex laughed. "I was thinking more along the lines of some kind of predator but that works too."

"Seriously Alexander, go away. You're bothering me."

"Hey my name's Alex."

"You told me your name was Alexander."

"But I don't want to be called Alexander. I want to be called Alex," He complained.

"Well since I don't really care what you want I'm going to continue calling you Alexander," Ella replied smiling.

"That's not fair!"

"Getting revenge on someone for an accident isn't fair either."

"But that was funny."
"I think this is pretty funny."

Alex made a weird choking noise before changing the subject. "So which rez do you live in?"

"None of your business."

"It is my business. I need to know how much longer I need to guard you from the monsters that roam the school at night."

"You don't need to guard me at all. I'm perfectly capable of taking care of myself. I'm not a little kid," Ella retorted, hands on hips.

Alex shook his head. "You don't even know what's out there."

"A couple of bats, an owl or two and maybe a raccoon."

"If that were all I wouldn't be here."

"So what? The boogieman's out there waiting to get me?"

"Not the boogieman. As far as I know he doesn't exist. I was thinking more along the lines of wolves, or mountain lions or other such dangerous creatures."

Ella rolled her eyes and began walking away again and once again Alex followed her. "I'm serious. There are all kinds of wild animals in the woods around here."


"There are."

"Sure whatever."

"I'm telling the truth."

"Of course you are."

At this point Ella had come to a stop outside the large red brick building that was her home. She turned to face Alex and made a shooing gesture in his direction. "I'm back. Now go away Alexander," she told him before fishing out her keys and opening the door.

"It's Alex!" he called after her.